Welcome to the new normal: Online learning in a hurry. Que the spam about tech solutions to your problem. Some are rushing in to lecture capture as a way to engage learners. In my opinion that is not the best option.

The problem with lecture capture: Audience retention.

First of all, long lectures are best for synchronous learning. I have gotten really good feedback about using them when teaching online. Assuming that asynchronous learners will enjoy listening to us for hours is contrary to current evidence as well as my experience.

Asynchronous learners find shorter videos more useful. Even if you chop the lecture into manageable chunks that will help the multitasking mom with five kids at home get through the content. There is a reference somewhere that agrees with me: Three to five minutes is best.

The average view duration on my channel has consistently been between 2:40 and 4 minutes over the last year.

Yes, sometimes I go over the five-minute mark. I try to break videos up into three to five-minute chunks. When they are longer, I make sure to have a table of contents below the video.

Screenshot of the video description with time stamps.

The content being taught matters as well as how engaging you are. If we take a look at one of my highest performing videos below, which is 12 minutes in duration, you can see that on average people are watching for over five minutes. That sounds like good news, but this video has a high production value. I have a good hook, engaging voice, and lots of engaging visuals that took way too long to edit in.

Audience retention graph showing that the average viewer duration is higher than normal, at 5:42 minutes.

But you are thinking that lectures are important so students will watch them. Think again. Here are the analytics from one of my lecture captures where I was describing an assignment. You would think that since the assignment was worth 60% of the student’s grade they would watch the entire thing. Nope. Keep in mind that these students were not in the middle of dealing with a pandemic.

Audience retention graph showing that students watched about 3 to four minutes of a 27-minute class.

Yes, some students will really appreciate lecture capture. A handful of them may even watch the entire thing. What I think we need to be cautious of is assuming that by capturing our lecture we will reach all the students.

Student Barriers

We all need to do our best to meet the student needs. As they are being forced out of residence, losing their employment, and having campus resources stripped from them they will likely not be able to make good use of video.

Don’t get me wrong, I like video and I plan to use it. However, I also need a low tech way to communicate the same information. It will increase my workload, but multiple means of engagement are more important than ever.


In the post below there are a few recommended software options. However, that was made before I used Zoom. If you are already living inside Zoom inside your organization consider using Zoom to record.

Why I like Zoom

When I make videos for my class I have been using Zoom lately and recording to the cloud (at least until their server becomes overloaded). I really like how the display of the transcript shows. In addition, students can download the files. That works nicely for anyone that wants to view the video offline (assuming of course that they can download them). I have at least one student who has run out of storage capacity on their laptop.

Once the recording is processed, Zoom emails me. I can then review them and remove any that are not needed. Since I did not share my video in this recording I might as well delete that view. I really like that they have the option to download the audio and transcript separately.

An example of the file size and downloadable files in Zoom.

Why I like OBS

OBS is super quick and easy for recording when you do not plan to edit. Earlier in the term, I provided my students with video feedback for an assignment using OBS. They generally liked it, but one of the problems was the large file size I used. Under settings, I have now reduced the resolution to the lowest possible option when sending videos to students.

A short tutorial on OBS

Why I like YouTube

At this juncture, my recommendation is that you use existing videos where possible. If you can curate a series of good videos to replace your lecture that will save you a lot of time and it is still very effective. You can customize the message you put beside it with a simple note or the high-tech H5P option. I plan on using H5P after I have written everything in a downloadable file so students can do any activities on paper. To maintain some connection with them you can also make a short intro video of your own that they watch before they watch the YouTube videos.

Unfortunately, YouTube prohibits the downloading of files. However, they are very good at giving users viewing options. Generally, students are familiar with how to use it. That will help people with the Internet.

Screenshot of a YouTube video. An arrow points to the setting gear icon. There is a circle around the quality option.

A screenshot of the menu students see when they click on quality.

Also, I frequently adjust the playback speed of videos I watch. YouTube also has closed captioning that is pretty reliable.

We Will Survive!

“You are not alone” displayed over an image of the world.
Categories: Reflections


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit http://nursekillam.com/.


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